Слике страница
PDF
ePub

And now, if the principles and measures of conduct laid down in this discourse, as necessary to constitute that greatest and most glorious of human beings, a Patriot King, be sufficient to this purpose, let us consider, too, how easy it is, or ought to be, to establish them in the minds of princes. They are founded on true propositions, all of which are obvious ; nay, many of them self-evident. They are confirmed by universal experience. In a word, no understanding can resist them, and none but the weakest can fail or be misled in the application of them. To a prince whose heart is corrupt it is in vain to speak ; and for such a prince I would not be thought to write. But if the heart of a prince be not corrupt, these truths will find an easy ingression through the understanding to it. Let us consider again what the sure, the necessary, effects of such principles and measures of conduct must be, to the prince and to the people. On this subject let the imagination range through the whole glorious scene of a patriot reign : the beauty of the idea will inspire those transports which Plato imagined the vision of Virtue would inspire, if Virtue could be seen. What in truth can be so lovely, what so venerable, as to contemplate a king on whom the eyes of a whole people are fixed, filled with admiration and glowing with affection ? a king in the temper of whose government, like that of Nerva, things so seldom allied as empire and liberty are intimately mixed, co-exist together inseparably, and constitute one real essence? What spectacle can be presented to the view of the mind so rare, so nearly divine, as a king possessed of absolute power, neither usurped by fraud nor maintained by force, but the genuine effect of esteem, of confidence, and affection ? the free gift of liberty, who finds her greatest security in this power, and would desire no other if the prince on the throne could be what his people wish him. to be — immortal. Of such a prince, and of such a prince alone, it may be said with strict propriety and truth,

Volentes per populos dat jura, viamque affectat Olympi. Civil fury will have no place in this draught; or, if the monster is seen, he must be seen as Virgil describes him,

Centum vinctus catenis Post tergum nodis, fremit horridus ore cruento. He must be seen subdued, bound, chained, and deprived entirely of power to do hurt. In his place concord will appear, brood. ing peace and prosperity on the happy land ; joy sitting in every face, content in every heart; a people unoppressed, undisturbed, unalarmed ; busy to improve their private property and the public stock; fleets covering the ocean, bringing home wealth by the returns of industry, carrying assistance or terror abroad by the direction of wisdom, and asserting triumphantly the right and the honor of Great Britain as far as waters roll and as winds can waft them.

Those who live to see such happy days, and to act in so glorious a scene, will perhaps call to mind with some tenderness of sentiment, when he is no more, a man who contributed his mite to carry on so good a work, and who desired life for nothing so much as to see a king of Great Britain the most popular man in his country, and a Patriot King at the head of a united people.

BUFFON'S NATURAL HISTORY.

[GEORGES LOUIS LECLERC, COMTE DE BUFFON, the great French naturalist, was born at Montbard, in Burgundy, September 7, 1707, and was liberally educated by his father, M. Leclerc de Buffon, a counselor of the parliament of Dijon. He was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences at Paris in 1739, and in the same year was appointed director of the Jardin du Roi, the present Jardin des Plantes. Shortly afterward he projected his “ Histoire Naturelle," and devoted himself for the rest of his life to its preparation, with the assistance of Daubenton, Lacépède, and others. The most complete edition is in thirty-six volumes (1749–1788). Although now obsolete, and of small scientific value, it had an extraordinary popularity, and was the means of diffusing a taste for the study of nature throughout Europe. After receiving several high honors, being elevated to the rank of Comte de Buffon by Louis XV., and treated with great distinction by Louis XVI., Buffon died at Paris, April 16, 1788.]

EFFECTS OF RAIN: MARSHES, SUBTERRANEOUS WOOD, AND

WATERS.

It has already been remarked that rains, and the currents of water which they produce, continually detach, from the summits and sides of mountains, earth, gravel, etc., and carry them down to the plains; and that the rivers transport part of them to the sea. The plains, therefore, by fresh accumulations of matter, are perpetually rising higher; and the mountains, for the same reason, are constantly diminishing both in size and elevation. Of the sinking of mountains, Joseph Blancanus relates several facts which were publicly known in his time. The steeple of the village of Craich, in the county of Derby, was not visible, in 1572, from a certain mountain, on account of a higher mountain which intervened ; but eighty or one hundred years afterwards, not only the steeple, but likewise part of the church, were visible from the same station. Dr. Plot gives a similar example of a mountain between Sibbertoft and Ashby, in the county of Northampton. Sand, earth, gravel, and small stones are not only carried down by the rains, but they sometimes undermine and drive before them large rocks, which considerably diminish the height of mountains. In general, the rocks are pointed and perpendicular in proportion to the height and steepness of the mountains. The rocks in high mountains are very straight and naked. The large fragments which appear in the valleys have been detached by the operation of water and of frosts. Thus sand and earth are not the only substances detached from mountains by the rains; they attack the hardest rocks, and carry down large fragments of them into the plains. At Nant-phrancon, in 1685, a part of a large rock, which was supported on a narrow base, being undermined by the waters, fell, and split into a number of fragments, the largest of which made deep trenches in the plain, crossed a small river, and stopped on the other side. To similar accidents we must ascribe the origin of all those large stones which are found in valleys adjacent to mountains. This phenomenon, as formerly remarked, is more common in countries where the mountains are composed of sand and freestone than in those the mountains of which consist of clay and marble, because sand is a less solid basis than clay.

To give an idea of the quantity of earth detached from mountains by the rains, we shall quote a passage on this subject from Dr. Plot's “Natural History of Stafford.” He remarks that a great number of coins, struck in the reign of Edward IV., i.e. two hundred years ago, were found buried eighteen feet below the surface; hence he concludes that the earth, which is marshy where the coins were found, augments about a foot in eleven years, or an inch and a twelfth each year. A similar observation may be made on trees buried seventeen feet below the surface, under which were found medals of Julius Cæsar. Thus the soil of the plains is considerably augmented and elevated by the matters washed down from the mountains. The rupture of caverns and the action of subterranean fires are the chief causes of the great revolutions which happen in the earth, but they are often produced by smaller causes. The filtration of the water, by diluting the clay upon which almost all calcareous mountains rest, has frequently made those mountains incline and tumble down..

There is not a castle or fortress, situated upon heights, which might not be easily tumbled into the plain by a simple cut of ten or twelve feet deep and some fathoms wide. This cut should be made at a small distance from the last wall, and upon that side where the declivity is greatest. This method, of which the ancients never dreamed, would have saved them the operation of battering-rams and other engines of war, and even at present might be employed, in many cases, with advantage. I am convinced by my eyes that, when these walls slipped, if the cut made for rebuilding them had not been speedily filled with strong mason work, the ancient walls and the two towers that have subsisted in good condition 900 years, and one of which is 125 feet high, would have tumbled into the valley, along with the rocks upon which they are founded. As most of our hills composed of calcareous stones rest upon a clay base, the first strata of which are always more or less moistened with the waters that filtrate through the crevices of the rocks, it appears to be certain that, by exposing these moistened beds to the air by a cut, the whole mass of rocks and earth resting upon the clay would slip, and in a few days tumble into the cut, especially during wet weather. This mode of dismantling a fortress is more simple than any hitherto invented ; and experience has convinced me that its success is certain.

The sand, gravel, and earth carried down from the mountains into the plains form beds which ought not to be confounded with the original strata of the globe. To the former belong the beds of tufa, of soft stone, and of sand and gravel which have been rounded by the operation of water. To these may be added those beds of stone which have been formed by a species of incrustation, none of which derive their origin from the motion or sediments of the sea. In these strata of tufa and of soft imperfect stones, we find a number of different vegetables, leaves of trees, land or river shells, and small terrestrial animals, but never seashells, or other productions of the ocean.

This circumstance, joined to their want of solidity, evidently proves that these strata have been superinduced upon the dry surface of the earth, and that they are more recent than those of marble and other stones, which contain seashells, and have been originally formed by the waters of the sea.

Tufa and other new stones appear to be hard and solid when first dug out of the earth ; but they soon dissolve after being exposed to the operation of the weather. Their substance is so different from that of true stone that, when broken down in order to make sand of them, they change into a kind of dirty earth. The stalactites and other stony concretions, which M. Tournefort apprehended to be marbles that had vegetated, are not genuine stones. We have already shown that the formation of tufa is not ancient, and that it is not entitled to be ranked with stones. Tufa is an imperfect substance, differing from stone or earth, but deriving its origin from both by the intervention of rain water, in the same manner as incrustations are formed by the waters of certain springs. Thus the strata of these substances are not ancient nor have they, like the other species, been formed by sediments from the waters of the ocean. The strata of turf are also recent, and have been produced by successive accumulations of half-corrupted trees and other vegetables, which owe their preservation to a bituminous earth. No production of the sea ever appears in any of these new strata. But, on the contrary, we find in them many vegetables, the bones of land animals, and land and river shells. In the meadows near Ashly, in the county of Northampton, for example, they find, several feet below the surface, snail shells, plants, herbs, and several species of river shells well preserved ; but not a single seashell appears. All these new strata have been formed by the waters on the surface changing their channels, and diffusing themselves on all sides. Part of these waters penetrate the earth, and run along the fissures of rocks and stones. The reason why water is so seldom found in high countries, or on the tops of hills, is because high grounds are generally composed of stones and rocks. To find water, therefore, we must cut through the rocks till we arrive at clay or firm earth. But when the thickness of the rock is great, as in high mountains, where the rocks are often 1000 feet high, it is impossible to pierce them to their base; and consequently it is impossible to find water in such situations. There are even extensive countries that afford no water, as in Arabia Petrea, which is

« ПретходнаНастави »